Commissioners Court extends disaster declaration for 22 days

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The disaster declaration for Fayette County was extended for an additional 22 days at a special meeting of the Commissioners Court on Thursday, April 30.

“I think that puts us beyond the 18th of May which is going to be a key day, when I expect the governor is going to come out with Phase II,” County Judge Joe Weber said.

Weber emphasized that the declaration still prohibits social and planned gatherings of groups of more than 10 people anywhere in Fayette County, continuing through the term of this disaster declaration, unless terminated or modified by written order.

“There’s going to be some confusion here,” Judge Weber said. “We still want to maintain no more than 10 or more people but it is in reference to large public gatherings – picnics, large weddings and events, dance halls, all those types of things.”

Judge Weber said there’s been some question if this 10-person requirement affects churches.

“It does if you’re going outside and having a big church picnic, where you would get 200 to 300 people together,” he said. “But it does not (affect) church services.”

Judge Weber mentioned that Gov. Greg Abbott has specific health guidelines for churches.

“If there’s any question on that, just call the judge’s office or the office of emergency management,” Judge Weber said. “I do think the intent is still to avoid large public gatherings at this time.”

An update on the AMP Pipeline construction project in Precinct 1 and Precinct 2 was given to the Court. County Inspector Clint Sternadel reported that since the last meeting held April 23, Aspen has paid and the County has its permits on file.

“To this point, they have been compliant with the cease and desist order,” Sternadel said. The road bond, road bores and development permit should be on the next regular Commissioners Court meeting agenda on May 14. Work could then resume on May 15 if approved by the Commissioners Court, Sternadel said.

After clarifying that no one should be working on the project at this time, Precinct 1 Commissioner Jason McBroom said his workers thought they had seen some people out there the day prior. Sternadel said he would look into it.

“What about fines?” Judge Weber asked.

“We have a per-day fine for the development permit and then for each road bore that was done without a permit, there’s a $5,000 per-road bore fine,” Sternadel said. “In the future, I would like to see that the development permit fine, particularly with regards to commercial development, be increased. The $100 a day for some of these commercial operators doesn’t seem to have much impact.”

Sternadel said that the discussion has been to go to $1,000 a day for the development permit fine.

No fines have been paid yet, Sternadel said.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Harvey Berckenhoff asked if Aspen had an excuse for the entire situation.

“...Their answer was that it was difficult to get in touch with us due to all the COVID-19 requirements,” Sternadel said.

He added that two County employees did meet with them in person outside on the Courthouse steps days before.

“They were here in person; we accommodated them as much as possible,” Sternadel said. “I don’t really know if that’s a valid excuse.”

Assistant County Attorney Blake Watson said Aspen has been deficient in its permits in the past. This was not the first time, he said.

Proposals from GrantWorks and Langford Community Management Services for administration of Fayette County’s TxDOT transportation infrastructure grant were reviewed. The proposal was awarded to GrantWorks.